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Jul 18, 2010 03:27 PM

Solo dining in Madison, WI?

Headed to Madison mid-week for business. Will have 2 evenings free for dinner. Looking for enjoyable meals at places where I'll feel comfortable as a woman dining alone. Interested in checking out places like Harvest and Sardine, so if anyone has any thoughts about those places, I'd love to hear. Also open to other suggestions- I eat pretty much everything except for Italian and Korean. Probably not interested in having Italian, sushi or Thai as I'm from NYC, so those are in high rotation for me. Like the 'local' concept that the above-mentioned places have.
Thanks in advance!!

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  1. I've dined solo at Harvest and it was very enjoyable. I've also dined at Sardine, and while it wasn't solo, I'm sure it would be fine as well. Another excellent place to consider is Fresco, on the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

    1. Unfortunately L'Etoile - Madison's best restaurant - is closed this week because they are moving to a new spot. I have always found Harvest markedly inferior to L'Etoile but with L'Etoile closed it's probably a decent choice. I am not sure what Sardine offers that would be considered local flavor. My recommendation is to pick a different place. It's good, but not great, and hardly unique in what it serves.

      If you are interested in things with local flavors, aside from Harvest, you could consider Restaurant Magnus. Scandinavian fare, owned by a family with Norwegian roots. It's my second favorite restaurant in Madison. Try the jarlsberg tart and just about any entree.

      The Old Fashioned is nowhere near as fancy and often crowded, but is sort of like gourmet midwest pub fare. Among my friends, it considered to have the best fried cheese curds.

      Also worth considering if you want something Madison has become known for... mac and cheese pizza. Ian's on State Street.

      My third favorite in Madison is Restaurant Muramoto. Asian fusion. But being from NYC you may not find this very compelling.

      Fresco is a good suggestion as well.

      Restaurant Magnus
      120 E Wilson St Ste 3, Madison, WI 53703

      L'Etoile Restaurant
      25 N Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703

      Restaurant Muramoto
      225 King St, Madison, WI 53703

      1 Reply
      1. re: TAsunder

        >> I am not sure what Sardine offers that would be considered local flavor.

        Eating at a table outside on the deck, overlooking Lake Monona.

      2. I am sorry to report that I cannot recommend Harvest. I went there once 6yrs ago on NYE, and it was great. Subsequent visits (three times since) have had TERRIBLE service and mediocre food with a large bill. Three out of four times, I left very hungry and wondering where to go for dinner when I just paid a $200 bill for dinner for two. Buzz kill. Avoid.

        Next time you are in town, do try the new l'Etoile restaurant or it's more casual gastropub called Graze. Both are located in the glass bank building on the square. L'Etoile would be a total treat for me anytime, but I also really adore comfort food served at Graze. LOVE IT.

        Just off the square, is a great little Italian place called Osteria Papavero. It is at 128 E. Wilson Street, next to Magnus (near the convention center). This food reminds me of actual restaurants in Italy.

        Osteria Papavero
        128 E Wilson St, Madison, WI 53703

        1. Another place you may find interesting is Lao Laan-Xang Restaurant, It is food from Lao very similar to Thai Food being they border each other but just different enough to be unique. If you really want to try something very Lao the dish with Chicken and Green Papaya is fantastic.

          Lao Laan-Xang Restaurant
          1146 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703

          1 Reply
          1. re: firestalker

            Thanks for the responses- wish I'd had time to see them! I attempted to go to Harvest last Wednesday evening. There was a concert at the Capitol, so the area was extremely crowded. I was about to give up, as parking garages were full, but lucked out and got a spot on the street. Harvest was very full, as were all of the outside tables. The hostess looked extremely overwhelmed- in fact, she could barely acknowledge me and a couple that came in right after me. I would have expected a pleasant smile and a "we'll be right with you," but she looked nervous and did not make eye contact and kept going back and forth to the front desk. Finally she said she would be with us but first had to finish what she was doing (I suppose marking reservations off a list). I asked if I could sit at the bar, but she proceeded to seat me at a table. The water glass on the table was already full, but I found it odd that I sat there for a good five minutes without anyone acknowledging me. I looked around and saw that most tables were full, but very few had any food. I decided that the service was going to be uncomfortably slow and I would have sat there by myself, very, very bored, so I left.

            Sadly, at that point, I was tired and just wanted to go back to my hotel, so I picked up fast food. Not quite what I was looking for! I will definitely try Etoile next time and can probably skip Sardine. I can not believe I did not know about Mac & Cheese pizza (and funny, because I walked by Ian's- but I'm a New Yorker, so I immediately dismissed the idea of pizza outside of NY!) Sounds gross, but those are my two favorite things, so I will have to try it!! I did sample cheese curds at the surprisngly good restaurant at my hotel (Geier's at the Holiday Inn). Delish!

            1721 Town Center St Ste 104, Aurora, IL 60504

            New Yorker Bar
            645 N James Lovell St, Milwaukee, WI 53233